YOKOHAMA, Japan — Two passengers taken off the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan, have died after contracting COVID-19, according to Japan's Health Ministry.
The ministry says the man and woman passed away as a result of the coronavirus on Thursday. They were Japanese, in their 80s and had preexisting diseases.
ABC News reports the patients were taken ashore for treatment last week after having prolonged fevers and they were ultimately diagnosed with the new coronavirus.
The Diamond Princess has started letting passengers who tested negative for the new coronavirus off the ship, and the process will continue through Friday.
About 600 guests were the first to be cleared by the ministry and released to disembark the ship Wednesday. Hundreds of other guests are expected to be cleared Thursday, Princess Cruises says.
The cruise ship docked at the port of Yokohama had been under quarantine since Feb. 5, after passengers began being diagnosed with the virus. Officials say more than 600 people on board ended up being infected and they were taken to shore to be treated.
On Monday, the U.S. government evacuated more than 300 Americans from the ship and transported them on charter flights to two U.S. bases, where they’ve been placed on quarantine for two weeks. About 60 American passengers remain in Japan, ABC News reports.
An infectious diseases expert has criticized the quarantine on the ship, calling it chaotic with overlaps of clean and contaminated zones.
CNN reports that at least 2,126 people have died from the virus, with all but 11 of those deaths in mainland China, where the virus is believed to have originated from.
Click here to learn more about the coronavirus, officially named COVID-19.